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We think... • July 2015

Holidays can be ruined by social media

Mariann -Hardey _M1
Dr Mariann Hardey


Social media professional, academic and university lecturer Dr Mariann Hardey considers why social media on holiday should be kept to a minimum

Holidays are now dominated by social media, and over the summer we will witness the Instagram’d shuffle from office to sand. After the first industrial revolution, far more attention was paid to leisure time. The primary purpose of a holiday is not the pursuit of more screen time, but culture and relaxation, and a possible flashpoint for beach-towel conflict.

Yet innovation from social media trespasses into our non-work time. Though a major step forward, in that we can discover the ‘secret’ five-starred restaurant on TripAdvisor, if anything social media has made things more mundane. Our world experience is smaller, not richer, as from the wisdom of crowds we flock to the same things, the same places, where people ‘like’ us and tag, share, pose, review, rate… 

If social media is the only evidence of a holiday, then things have gotten out of hand. We are so busy recording that we miss the things waiting to be discovered, which can only happen if you leave your phone at home. 

I appreciate I am painting a very black-and-white picture here, but the composite image presented by social media #holiday is unduly slanted in one direction and framed by our anxiety about disconnecting. This picture is not simply the result of an excess of resources, nor is it simply a consequence of expecting too much from our leisure time. The problem is a palpable one and an immense narrowing of where we go and what we do. It is surely time to ascend out of social media (for a bit) and find ourselves willing to lose control, to tumble down all manner of unknown streets and truly get lost again without Google Maps.


Time to relax? Not if you’re still constantly connected

It’s not difficult to demonstrate how a casual usage of social media leads to repetition of the same things. In this version, the internet of things feeds off our frenetic pattern of activity and we lack any really spontaneous relaxation. While free to entertain ourselves during an eight-hour delay with nothing but a Kindle, another wearable calculating our paced steps (never enough), and re-reading those five-starred reviews on TripAdvisor, we dance through our screens and risk missing genuine intimacy. 

If this version is not very appealing, then you reading this, alongside checking your email, is scarcely more relaxing.

I am going to summarise for you a two-fold process from which you have already justified your social media use on holiday. First, the role of work and professional expectations. Second, the pressures and opportunities of immediate social situations. Here, it seems to me, the terrain of social media is more dangerous than the risk of ‘feeling left out’ were we to disconnect. We may think of holidays as a healthy and spontaneous release; or we may continue to go and stand poolside taking selfies just like everyone else. 

This article has been tagged Opinion, Culture